Tontitown Could Turn Criminally Poisoned Trees Into Artwork

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More than a year after dozens of trees were poisoned in a Tontitown park, all affected trees have died. City officials, though, hope to take some positive points from the loss and turn the dead stumps into works of art.

Tontitown officials announced early last year that dozens of their larger oak trees and smaller trees had been poisoned with a deadly herbicide, meant to keep plants from utilizing photosynthesis. They predicted death for the affected trees, but held out hope.

No trees touched by the herbicide lived, though. Among the dead now are six 100-year-old trees, along with about 40 smaller trees. Ten-foot-high stumps are all that’s left of four of the larger trees. Tontitown building inspector Ken Bailey said city administrators may end up decorating the stumps with chainsaw art.

“We’re trying to make something positive come out of this bad thing,” Bailey said. “It’s going to cost about $5,000 to create some artwork out of these tree trunks, so if the public would like to help us out, we would greatly appreciate it.”

Tontitown’s Harry Sbanotto Park lies near City Hall. The park’s easy access to Arkansas Highway 412 makes it a popular spot for area families looking to spend time outdoors. For some residents, the poisoning of the trees is more than an act of vandalism. It reaches into the roots of the community, Bailey said.

“Some of the kinfolk of the people who live here probably planted some of these trees, and being 100, 110 years old, it’s just a shame to see these gone,” he said.

Tamera Shreve has not lived in Tontitown long, but said she is struggling to bring logic to the poisoning.

“Just kind of thought that was strange, that somebody would do something like that for no reason,” Shreve said.

“It’s a nice park for a small community,” said Ivan Longuevelle, who lives nearby. “So just destroying it, especially the bigger trees, I think is kind of sad.”

Shreve and Longuevelle both applaud the possibility of turning the dead trees into artwork.

“I’ve noticed that they left trunks up high, so hopefully they can make something nice out of it,” Longuevelle said.

“I think that would be nice versus just having a big stump in the way,” Shreve said. “It makes it a little more interactive.”

As city officials plan for the future of the park whose scenery has forever been changed, whoever poisoned the trees still roams free. Police have made no arrests, and the city has a $5,000 standing reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.

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